Over 30 women with ties to Legion of Christ support claim by alleged victim of gang rape in Chile

The lay Catholic women published an open letter saying they experienced an environment of abuse similar to what the plaintiff described in her complaint

El sacerdote Marcial Maciel recibe la bendición del papa Juan Pablo II
Father Marcial Maciel, who founded the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement, receives a blessing from Pope John Paul II.TARCISIO SAMANIEGO (Cuartoscuro)

A group of 32 former Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, lay women who dedicate their lives fully to Christ through their membership in an international Catholic federation that also includes the Legion of Christ, published an open letter on September 5 supporting a Chilean women who alleges being gang-raped by Legion of Christ priests in Santiago (Chile) between 2008 and 2010. “We experienced an environment where abuse of power and conscience was prevalent, and where the described sexual assaults in the lawsuit could have taken place,” stated the signatories of the civil lawsuit filed last June. The alleged victim, now 32 years old, is a former teenaged student of Colegio Cumbres, an exclusive educational institution managed by the Legion of Christ in Chile’s capital city.

The 16-year-old victim lived at the Regnum Christi Student Center for two years. In mid-August, a confidential civil lawsuit seeking compensation for damages was leaked on social media. The lawsuit alleges sexual abuse, abuse of power and breach of conscience by seven priests and two consecrated women identified as the perpetrators, accomplices and accessories. Following the leak, representatives of the victim’s family from Chile’s Fundación para la Confianza requested “respect and privacy” for the woman who was subjected to a system of extreme manipulation, degradation and abuse.

The former Consecrated Women who attended the Regnum Christi Student Center, where young women received vocational discernment training, said in their letter, “The environment described in the lawsuit seems credible to us.” According to their statement, Consecrated Women were expected to surrender their own judgment to the authorities and superiors as an act of self-denial out of love. They were also instructed not to share their thoughts, emotions, or personal experiences within and outside the communities, and having friends was considered as being disloyal to God. As a result, they were kept emotionally dependent on the directors, fostering isolation.

In late June, the Regnum Christi Movement in Chile stated that the alleged victim presented two separate complaints in November 2019: one to the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in Chile and another to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) of the Holy See in Rome.

Regarding the first complaint that accused two Consecrated Women, Regnum Christi reported that “Some of the elements presented seemed plausible, but insufficient details require further inquiries.” This led to a second investigation, carried out by the CDF in July 2021 that found, “The general director of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi concluded the case after verifying that there is insufficient evidence to support the complaint against the consecrated woman and the former consecrated woman.”

The complaint filed with the CDF “charged several priests in the Legionaries of Christ.” The CDF assigned the preliminary investigation to an expert in canon law, and after nine months, the CDF closed the case because “there were insufficient elements to give credibility to the complaint.” In response, the Fundación para la Confianza said, “The investigation, which lasted until April 2021, was extremely hostile to our client, and ignored the pastoral protocols developed by the Catholic Church for the care of abuse victims.”

In late August, the seven Legionaries of Christ priests charged in the civil lawsuit filed by the former Colegio Cumbres student asked for government prosecutors to investigate according to processes of Chilean law. Father Gabriel Bárcena, the regional director for the Legionaries of Christ in Chile, said, “The priests want the appropriate authorities to examine and evaluate the facts impartially, respecting the rights of all those involved. These rights include respecting the confidentiality requested by the plaintiff and protecting the priests’ dignity, reputation and presumption of innocence.”

Marcial Maciel, the Mexican priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ, abused at least 60 minors, according to an internal Legionaries investigation released in 2019. The Vatican held documentation of his pedophilia since 1943.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS